Two days after his season ended a game shy of the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger said he's not entirely sure he will be back for a 14th year in the NFL.
"I'm not by any means saying I'm not coming back or anything like that," the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said on a local radio station Tuesday. "I'm saying at this point of my career that it's prudent … to evaluate, to make sure.
"You want to be able to leave this game walking out of it in a healthy spot. You don't want to be, quote-unquote, carted out. You don't want to leave this game and be worse for the wear."
After completing 64.4% of his passes for 3,819 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, Roethlisberger was voted into the Pro Bowl for the fifth time this season but declined to participate for the second straight year.
Roethlisberger, 35, missed one game in 2016 after knee surgery and said Tuesday a shoulder injury bothered him the second half of the season. He has played his entire career with the Steelers, leading the team to two league championships in three Super Bowl appearances.
The Steelers were routed by the Patriots, 36-17, in the AFC championship game on Sunday, but Roethlisberger sounded like he might have had the possibility of retirement on his mind prior to the heartbreaking loss.
"It's one of those things, I was talking to my wife about it last night and I've been talking to my agent about it and coach about it," Roethlisberger said. "I'm going to take this off-season to evaluate it, to consider all options, to consider health, family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season — if there's going to be a next season — all those things."
In his season-ending news conference Tuesday, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin responded to his quarterback's comments.
"He said it, so you do take it seriously," Tomlin said. "I think that that's a fair assessment in terms of where he is in his career. I'm not alarmed by it. I just think that that's football. I obviously am hopeful that he returns."